For one south-west Justice of the Peace, becoming a ‘fellow’ means more than just adding letters to a title.
Warrnambool resident Michelle McQuilton, who is also a bail justice, has become the first female Fellow of the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices in the south-west region of Victoria.
As one of only six appointed to the role in Victoria, Ms McQuilton says the acknowledgement is a victory for gender equality.
“It has always been a male-dominated position, even when JP’s sat on the bench. It’s only been the last 20 years that ladies have even taken on the role and I think it’s great,” she said.
“It’s a privilege to have been recognised for years of service.”
Ms McQuilton has been a Justice of the Peace for 17 years and a bail justice for four.
“I am also the first woman president of the south-west Justice of the Peace and bail justice Warrnambool Club, which is normally very much dominated by men,” Ms McQuilton said.
“We are blessed to have good men in the club though, we are like family, we look out for each other and between us we have over 100 years of experience.”
Justices of the Peace provide witnessing and certification services to the community. Bail justices conduct hearings in relation to applications for bail or remand and applications for interim accommodation orders relating to children. Both are voluntary roles and are generally conducted outside normal business hours.
“I can recall meeting people in the middle of the night at roundabouts because that was the only time we could get them both to sign,” she said
According to RVAHJ official documentation Ms McQuilton’s award is for ‘exemplary service given to the community’.
“I have always been someone to put my hand up for things. I really believe if you put in to a community you’ll get back,” she said.
A Warrnambool resident for over 40 years, Ms McQuilton has rarely taken a step back from work pursuits.
“I have a saying I like to use, ‘walk with me if you need to talk with me’ because I’m rarely standing still,” she said.
Ms McQuilton’s business card now reads ‘Michelle Guyett McQuilton JP BJ CRMC FRVAHJ’.
“There’s not too many letters left after this award but I generally just go by ‘Shell’,” she said.
She attributes her level-headedness to her family, along with a sense of fairness.
“I’m just lucky enough to be born into a family who believe men and women were born equal,” she said.